The great Indian hat trick

Jan 10, 2012, 06:43 IST | Soma Das
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is hosting Shirobhushan, an exhibition showcasing 70 unique caps sourced from all over the world and across time spans. It is part of avid hat collector and record holder Anant Joshi's personal collection

While there are collectors of books, maps, rare antiquities and what not, Anant Joshi has a unique passion he hunts for quirky hats.

Anant Joshi with his collection of hats, Helmet from Prussia

The collector's bug bit him when he was a kid: "I was the sickly kind and spent a lot of time by myself in bed and watching Westerns on video.
I loved the way most characters would doff their hats off. That's how hats became my favourite toys," he recalls.

Cheap hats purchased from local fairs soon became Joshi's prized possessions. When he was 12, his mother bought him a real hat from USA.

He was thrilled and was inseparable from it for days. By the time he managed to acquire 25 hats, he was contemplating the possibility of nurturing it as a hobby.

It's been 35 years since then and he now has an enviable collection of 1,500 caps from all over the world. He has turned his home in Kalyan into a cap museum. His obsession fetched him a place in the Limca Book of Records as well.

Method in madness
Joshi admits that he has sought help from his friends as well to add to his collection. "When my friends and relatives travel abroad, I request them to fetch me unique caps from that particular country.

English chapel hat made from wood with carvings, an Indonesian traditional cap, a Siberian cap and a Modia cap from tribal Karnataka; the tradition dates back to the Satvahana times

Whenever I go out of station, my first goal is to find a rare cap or capture photographs to make replicas of them. I have gathered a lot of information by visiting Chor Bazaar and interacting with antique dealers," he adds.

Maintaining that the extensive collection is no mean task either. "I clean the caps every morning and ensure they remain in good condition. My wife Mugdha and son Gautam help me a lot as well."

Heads up
At the exhibition currently underway, the caps are arranged in several categories such as community caps, international caps, turbans and helmets. Along with it there will be captions detailing the importance of the headgears.

The exhibits include tribal caps from various communities. "There are more than 6,000 tribes across the country and turbans are a part of various traditions. "Orange turbans are used for most birth-related events while yellow ones are worn during funerals."

The international collection includes Malaysian, Chinese, Russian and African caps. "The Malaysian caps are made from bamboo to work in the paddy fields, while Mongolian and Russian caps are made from fur to protect from the cold.

African caps are adorned with stones and beads as per their traditions," he elaborates. Joshi also boasts of a large collection of stories related to Indian turbans.

"Rajasthan was the birthplace of the turban. It is evident from the fact that a Maurya period image of a yaksha wearing a pagdi was excavated near Bharatpur.

It is supposed to be the oldest example of the turban in the world. Also, in Rajasthan, a defaulter often escaped punishment by laying his turban at the feet of the accuser. An exchange of pagdis would often seal a pact."

Over the last five years, Joshi has been conducting research on ancient headgears and he recently presented a research paper at the Indian Archeological Conference at Baroda.

Till February 12
At Curator's Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
Call 22844484

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